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United Nations

Book Review: 'Ethnicity and Power in the Contemporary World'

Disunited nations

'Ethnicity and Power in the Contemporary World', by K. Rupesinghe & V. Tishkov (eds), United Nations Publications.

Intra-national conflicts, such as those in the former Yugoslavia and USSR recently, have often been described in the media as the "boiling over" of “ethnic tension". Yet we see little, if any, analysis as to what this "ethnicity" actually is and what really caused these conflicts. The value of this book is that it raises these issues and questions the over-simplistic, "cultural" or "ethnicity’’-based answers. As Assefa puts it a chapter about the Horn of Africa:

Rear View

The futility of reformism

Goals and Penalties

In September the UN adopted seventeen Global Goals, intended to build a better world by 2030 ( These include such aims as ending poverty and hunger, promoting clean water and renewable energy, achieving gender equality and combatting climate change. All very worthy, and at least the global nature of problems and solutions is recognised, but let’s step back a bit and look at the background and history of such efforts.

The Global Goals are a follow-up to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set by the UN in 2000 (, though with 1990 often taken as a benchmark. There were just eight MDGs, from eradicating extreme poverty and hunger to reducing child mortality and combatting HIV/AIDS. For a discussion of one aspect of this, see Material World in the August Socialist Standard.

Food for Thought

During his directorship of the United Nations' Food and Agriculturist Organisation Sir John Boyd Orr won the approval of many people for his work in organising the supply or food to the devastated countries of Europe. Since his retirement from that post he has been tackling the problem of food production for all the peoples of the world. His approach is the direct one; his ideals mere wishful thinking, because conflicting interests in capitalist society, national and international, permit of no direct methods for the provision of a full life for all.

Among many other things he said (Daily Herald, 29/7/48):

    "A world of peace and friendship, a world with the plenty which modern science had made possible was a great ideal. But those in power had no patience with such an ideal. They said it was not practical politics."

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